Boardman Bikes 2011: Q&A with Chris Boardman

Track legend discusses design and development

With Boardman Bikes officially unveiling their new Elite and Performance ranges for 2011/12, BikeRadar took the opportunity to chat to their director of operations, Andy Smallwood, and the man himself – track racing legend Chris Boardman.

BikeRadar: Chris, what role do you play in the development of the Boardman bikes?

Chris Boardman: I'm involved in every aspect of every bike. Next week we're off to the factory to start looking at things for 2013 (Boardman operate in two-year production cycles), and that's the fun bit – I can't let somebody else take charge of that because that's the part that interests me.

"The reason I got involved is because I wanted to be part of a project, not just give a name to one. That wouldn't have inspired me. I enjoy it, and being a part of every bit of it is what makes it worthwhile. But that doesn't mean I come up with all the ideas.

"I learned the hard way in the past that you've got to take a team approach in creating things. You bring in specialists for different projects and different areas. It's much better than if you just have one imagination working."

Have you been surprised by how quickly the company has progressed since launching in 2007?

CB: "It's pretty scary because there's a big responsibility. I've always had the approach that with every performance – whether it be with bikes or anything else – you know your dream, your destination, where you want to end up, but you've got to let go of all that and think, 'right, what do I need to do? What are the first steps?'

"Coming to the launch, you think, 'that's the range, right here', so that always takes me by surprise. And you hope everyone is going to like it. But fundamentally, we couldn't have done a better job."

Why did you decide to sponsor an American team, UnitedHealthcare Presented by Maxxis, for 2011?

CB: "We've sponsored a British team (Halfords) and that was great, a good experience. But you do need to be associated with somebody. With United Healthcare, people can see the products you have to offer and it's visible.

"We've just booked our prototype time trial frame in with them. We know we've done a strong job in producing it, but it's still scary when something goes out to a pro team, because their performance depends on what you've made. But it's good because any feedback from them gets fed back into the design process. So the visiblity is important, but so is the feedback from field testing by somebody who really knows what they're doing."

Until now, Boardman bikes have only been available in the UK, through Halfords. When and where will the new bikes be available in the US, and elsewhere internationally?

Andy Smallwood: "Within the next few months. Where they can be bought will be revealed in the next few weeks. We've been working on this for months and we're almost there, but we can't talk just yet!"

Are there any plans to make your bikes available through stores other than Halfords in the UK and Ireland?

CB: "Halfords have been great for us. They've allowed us to expand so quickly. They took a punt on us – to get behind something that was brand new and really back it – and it grew and grew, and the Performance range is right for them. It's stretched them at the top end into products and price ranges that they normally don't deal with, but they've risen to that.

"With the Elite tier, price is important but it's really about the performance. Halfords are doing some of the bottom end of the Elite range but it's not exclusive to them. We'll be going through some independent bike dealers and we're just in the process of getting the right ones. We're not going to have many in the UK but we want to select the right ones."

When will the 2011 bikes be available to buy?

AS: "The Performance range will be in stores immediately, with the Elite range in the next six to eight weeks."

CB: "Some of the Elite stuff, we're still in the final throes of testing. But most of it's in production now."

Chris, what's your favourite model in the 2011 range?

CB: "I keep getting asked that but I just can't do it, which is a really nice problem to have. I've been through three iterations in the last half hour alone! I asked myself the same question earlier and I looked at all the bikes, but I just couldn't do it."

Why did you decide to include the new Road Pro Carbon in the Performance range, rather than in the Elite series with Boardman's other aero road bikes ?

AS: "We wanted to give the Performance consumer the opportunity to buy into the technology and design that was available in the Elite level products."

CB: "We found a way to do it without compromising. For that price range, if we can do something that we really think is good, it's one of the things we try to do. Price wise, we're obviously really good, probably better than anybody, and it's nice to be able to do that."

AS: "From a costing point of view, it was really difficult. But from a consumer point of view, it was something we wanted to do – to try and give them that specification of product without compromise."

You can watch a short video interview with Chris Boardman below:

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